Tourists in Yellowstone National Park last week marveled as a bison placed its massive head upon a boardwalk and used the wood as a chin scratcher.
Predictably, the sight inspired some tourists, who might have been dangerously close to begin with, to inch even closer with their cameras.
The encounter occurred near Old Faithful on June 7, a week after a tourist was gored and tossed 10 feet into the air by a bison. The woman was hospitalized with serious injuries.
Photo: Ken Carleton
The accompanying images, captured by Ken Carleton, appeared on Facebook and in the Cowboy State Daily, which showed them to park staff.
Several Facebook users expressed anger over what they perceived to be foolish behavior. Yellowstone officials were not pleased.
Park spokeswoman Linda Veress is quoted: “All of the people were too close and this was an unsafe situation.”
Park regulations mandate that tourists make every attempt to stay at least 25 yards from bison, unpredictable animals that can weigh 2,000 pounds and run 30 mph.
Photo: Ken Carleton
Veress added: “On a boardwalk, [people] should go back the way they came and wait for the animal to leave.”
Carleton, who was visiting from Washington State with his wife and son, said his family learned from the experience.
“We were all caught in the moment,” he told FTW Outdoors. “It was like the bison was showing off. It was very easy to forget, at that moment, about any danger.”
Both bison leaving the boardwalk by way of Old Faithful. Photo: Kody Carleton
Carleton explained that, initially, the bison was spotted 50 feet from the boardwalk, standing still while grazing. “We stopped walking and watched the bison,” Carleton said. “No threats, since the bison was grazing and not really moving in any direction.”
Suddenly, however, the bison angled toward the boardwalk. This split the tourists. Some walked forward to try to stay ahead of the animal, while others stopped and tried to stay behind the animal.
The latter group, while seeming to make the smarter choice, spotted a second bison behind them and became “trapped” between both bison.
About this time, the first bison used the boardwalk as a headrest in a behavior rarely observed. People paused to take photos; some were within than 20 feet.
Thankfully, the bison did not react beyond gazing toward the people.
Said Carleton: “The bison ended up waking around the tree and bushes back toward the trail that came from the river, away from me. That allowed the people who were trapped to continue toward me.
“Both bison crossed over toward Old Faithful. We moved on, into the lodge to the gift shop.”
Carleton added that he was surprised at how quickly a situation can change inside the park and will be more aware of that possibility during his next visit.